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Updated Nov 03, 2023

Management Theory of Frederick Herzberg

Herzberg's management theory provides the tools to both satisfy and motivate employees.

Danielle Fallon O'Leary
Danielle Fallon-O’Leary, Senior Writer & Expert on Business Operations
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With a large portion of the working population leaving their jobs to pursue other opportunities — what has become known as the “Great Resignation” — businesses have reexamined their founding principles and company cultures to institute widespread changes to retain top talent. 

Businesses that have adapted to boost morale and keep their employees engaged have fared well during the Great Resignation. This is a key tenet of Frederick Herzberg’s management theory. Here’s everything you need to know about Herzberg’s management theory and tips for incorporating it into your company.

The management theory of Frederick Herzberg

Herzberg contributed greatly to the human relations school of management through his insight into employee satisfaction and motivation. Herzberg’s motivation-hygiene theory, also known as the two-factor theory, covers what he called the “hygiene factor” and the “motivation factor.” According to this theory, hygiene factors are the extrinsic conditions, or environmental factors, that determine employees’ level of satisfaction. 

Herzberg’s theory states that, while negative hygiene factors (such as low pay, poor working conditions and a lack of job security) cause job dissatisfaction, positive hygiene factors (such as status, good ergonomics and worker-friendly policies) simply satisfy basic employee needs while exerting no effect on motivation.

Motivational factors, by contrast, are the positive influences that cause an employee to want to do a better job. According to Herzberg’s theory, motivational factors can be either extrinsic or intrinsic. Extrinsic motivating factors include recognition, advancement and increasing levels of responsibility, whereas intrinsic motivating factors include achievement, growth and interest.

Key TakeawayKey takeaway
The “motivator” factors in Herzberg’s theory are the conditions that give employees a greater sense of purpose and fulfillment in their roles. Some motivating factors are creative independence, opportunities for advancement, status, recognition and a sense of achievement.

To motivate employees, Herzberg suggested arranging work for job enlargement, job rotation and/or job enrichment. To boost productivity, he said, employers must increase their employees’ motivational factors while increasing workplace hygiene.

Tips for implementing Herzberg’s management theory

If you’re looking to implement aspects of Herzberg’s management theory, here are some tips to get started:

Locate tools and resources.

There are numerous resources — including books, podcasts and tutorials — that provide valuable information about Herzberg’s theory. You’ll find videos, instructional materials, diagrams and summaries of Herzberg’s motivation principles that can help you develop the background knowledge to put these theories to work for your company.

Hire a consultant. 

Consultants with knowledge and experience in Herzberg’s management theory can guide you in maximizing the benefit of his principles in your company’s unique environment. [Read about the The Management Theory of Henry Mintzberg.] 

If hiring a consultant to help tackle this work isn’t in your budget right now, you can begin evaluating your company’s current status to get a sense of your workforce’s overall job satisfaction and dissatisfaction.

Evaluate your current workplace.

Herzberg took inspiration from Abraham Maslow’s theory of self-actualization, more commonly known as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and applied some of those principles to the workplace.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs states that for humans to achieve self-actualization, or the motivation to become the best possible version of themselves, their most basic needs must be met first. With Herzberg’s theory, the same idea applies to evaluating your company culture to determine how well your current policies meet your employees’ motivation and hygiene needs. 

Address “hygiene” factors.

Herzberg’s hygiene factors equate to what Maslow considered the most basic needs. Once your company meets those requirements, your workforce should feel stable and supported enough to be motivated to perform their roles as well as possible. Here are some hygiene factors to consider:

  • Your company’s reputation and administration policies: Your brand’s reputation can affect your employees’ ability to work with external partners and vendors and seek opportunities outside the organization. Your administration policies can also profoundly influence the satisfaction of your workforce.
  • Job policies and managerial practices: The procedures you implement to regulate your employees’ daily activities and how they are reinforced by managers affect not only employees’ job dissatisfaction but also their motivation to perform well for the company. If your employees feel stifled by your company’s regulations, they won’t be motivated to contribute to its success.
  • Job security: Especially in times of economic uncertainty, it’s essential to assure your employees that their jobs are safe and that they are valued members of your company. 
  • Work environment: Providing a safe and comfortable work environment is vital to optimal workplace hygiene. The most basic definition of workplace hygiene concerns aspects of the physical work environment, such as cleanliness and temperature. However, workplace hygiene can also encompass employees’ average commute time and the stress they face in getting to and from the office. Hybrid work models have become a popular option to provide more flexibility than requiring employees to be in the office five days per week. 
  • Salary and benefits: Salary and benefits address your employees’ most basic needs. However, benefits can extend beyond insurance coverage to include affinity groups to foster connections across your organization, mentorship programs to help employees grow beyond their roles, and additional training so they can learn new skills and explore other areas of interest.
Did You Know?Did you know
Maslow’s theory of self-actualization states that humans possess two different sets of needs: deficiency needs, which cover the bottom four tiers of his model (physiological needs; safety and security; love and belonging; and self-esteem), and growth needs, which is the top tier of self-actualization. Herzberg’s theory makes a similar distinction between workplace “motivator” and “hygiene” factors.

Listen to your employees.

To see how well your company meets your employees’ hygiene and motivation needs, poll your workforce. Then, meet with your senior leadership and HR teams to review the results, determine the next steps and coordinate efforts to implement change

Once you have employee feedback, it can be difficult to discern where to go next. Here are some strategies for addressing your employees’ concerns:

  • Ensure adequate resources. Make sure people have the equipment, software and other resources needed to do their jobs. [Read about the management theory of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth regarding workplace efficiency.] 
  • Connect with employees. Determine which departments are the lowest-performing and which ones have the lowest job satisfaction. Connect with those employees, and ask specific questions about the changes they’d like to see, including opportunities for advancement, additional training and more responsibility. Pay attention to employee hygiene needs as well.
  • Maintain open communication. Institute channels where employees and managers regularly connect to share feedback, including one-on-one meetings, annual performance reviews and mentorship programs. Improving the relationship between managers and their direct reports can help to improve employee job satisfaction and reduce turnover.

Give employees more autonomy. 

According to Herzberg, allowing employees more responsibility and independence in their roles imparts a sense of fulfillment and achievement, thereby motivating them to take pride in their work and strive to improve and grow. In addition, when your employees are encouraged to take ownership of their projects, you reinforce that they are appreciated members of the company and that you value their insight and expertise. 

Danielle Fallon O'Leary
Danielle Fallon-O’Leary, Senior Writer & Expert on Business Operations
Danielle Fallon-O'Leary is a longtime marketer with a passion for helping clients strengthen their online brands. She has managed clients' social media accounts, developed marketing campaigns and compiled key data for analytics reports. Other projects have included newsletter curation, workflow management and search engine optimization. Along with her marketing responsibilities, Fallon-O'Leary has had an up-close look at other aspects of small business operations, including invoicing and accounting, employee recruitment and training.
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